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2006 04 12
Discount shopping in Montreal
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Packing tape dispensers, tape, coin rolls, and paint, all for $1.00!

As an industrial designer I am obsessed with material culture- what I do is create objects that help people in ordinary ways in everyday life. I am not really interested in expensive furniture boutiques or art galleries- to me the objects in these stores are formal ware- objects we buy to give good impressions.

What really interests me are the objects that are inexpensive, mass produced, and almost throw-away in their value- these objects are like our pyjamas, what we use when we are just being ourselves. Montreal is therefore an ideal city for me to live in, as it is a city full of dollar stores.

Unlike Walmarts, dollar stores are small, neighbourhood-oriented stores that can be found in all neighbourhoods in the city. Most citizens can walk to their nearby dollar store. Dollar stores are full of objects so banal that you forget them until you need them. Having a dinner party for 16? Get extra plates and wine glasses at the dollar store. Your roommate threw out the hand-me-down plunger? Dollar store. Invited to a costume party? A trip to the dollar store fixes the problem. I do not understand why anyone would buy paint rollers at Home Depot when your friendly neighbourhood dollar store has them for a Loonie each.

If you visit enough dollar stores, you will soon discover that each dollar store has its own peculiarities that reflect the character of the store owners or perhaps the character of the neighbourhood. Le Super Dollar on Sherbrooke in NDG has a great selection of pottery with and knick-knacks oriental motifs. Village des mini prix on Wellington has an incredible selection of tools and hardware. Dollarama on Notre Dame has a good stock of cute melamine, ceramic, and wood bowls.

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While not exactly a dollar store, my favourite in Montreal is Banzai on Decarie Boulevard south of Sherbrooke. This store shares its space with an Asian food store, with all kinds of interesting foodstuffs. Although a lot smaller, Bonzai reminds me a great deal of Daiso in Richond, BC.

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Going to Banzai is like taking a trip to Asia on a discount. All the goods, gloves, umbrellas, hair curlers, sake glasses and umbrellas are exotically packaged. The range of products for sale is incredible, from cheap (yet attractive) food containers to beautiful ceramic teapots and sake bottles. I get inspired by the attention to detail paid by the designers to the objects that are sold in this store. If you are looking for a nice yet inexpensive gift, or just want to kill time before going to Chalet Barbeque, I recommend going to Banzai.

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In my work I design objects that are so banal that they are almost invisible, yet quietly impact our lives through their service, and by adding to the cacophony that is our environment. In dollar stores I can find inspiration to do design better products and also learn from the mistakes made by other designers.
[email this story] Posted by Michael Bailey on 04/12 at 10:39 PM

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